Mutiny in Outer Space (1965)


A well-paced and entertaining sci-fi film hampered by its low budget

Directed by Hugo Grimaldi, Arthur C. Pierce (uncredited)
Written by Hugo Grimaldi, Arthur C. Pierce
Produced by Hugo Grimaldi, Arthur C. Pierce, Bernard Woolner, David Woolner, Lawrence Woolner
Cinematography: Archie R. Dalzell
Edited by George White
Music by Harry Eisen (Stock music editor)
Production company: Hugo Grimaldi Productions
Distributed by Woolner Brothers Pictures
Running time: 82 minutes
Budget: $90,000 (estimate)


William Leslie as Maj. Gordon Towers
Dolores Faith as Dr. Faith Montaine
Pamela Curran as Lt. Connie Engstrom
Richard Garland as Col. Frank Cromwell
Harold Lloyd Jr. as Sgt. Andrews
James Dobson as Dr. Hoffman
Ron Stokes as Sgt. Sloan
Boyd Holister as Maj. Olsen (in credits as Robert Palmer)
Gabriel Curtiz as Dr. Stoddard
Glenn Langan as Gen. Knowland
H. Kay Stevens as Sgt. Engstrom
Francine York as Capt. Stevens
Joel Smith (unnamed character)
Carl Crow as Capt. Dan Webber
Robert Nash (unnamed character)

Astronauts on a trip back from the lunar ice caves contract a deadly fungus.

They unwittingly contaminate a space station with the fungus.

Space Station X-7 is soon overrun by the unknown deadly alien fungus.

What’s more, not all is right with the X-7’s commander.

What must the crew do in order to save the space station, along with Earth itself from destruction?

Read on for more…..

Spoilers follow below…..

“Just when we think we have space under control……”

In an imagined future of the 1990s, Maj. Gordon Towers and Capt. Dan Webber are returning to Space Station X-7 with geological samples and ice they collected from ice caves on the Moon.

Meanwhile on the space station, the crew on board are contending with space junk in the form of “another one those communication satellites” – a 30 year old t-type closing fast on their position.

Back on Earth Gen. Knowland discusses the cost and time savings involved in the construction of the lunar base phase two and the possibilities presented by the ice caves from which water could be obtained by means of solar power reflectors, along with construction materials being produced on site. The result it is hoped is that, “the savings in transporting raw materials will be tremendous.”

In a reflective mood the general states that it is the ‘human element’ that concerns him…..

On board probe ship number five all is pretty much routine with Maj. Gordon Towers and Capt. Dan Webber as they switch to automatic pilot with nothing to do but “just sit back and let the electronic skipper” take over. This leaves them time to engage in blokey talk concerning “heavenly bodies,” a “beautiful blond with a binary brain” and a civilian biochemist who is “supposed to really be something.”

And on and on rolls the teenage romantic banter and infatuations where on the space station we see that Lt. Connie Engstrom is smitten with Col. Frank Cromwell who doesn’t seem to notice her as he is so focused on his command responsibilities. This of course is concerning doctor Hoffman who insists that Cromwell gets some rest. This in turn brings to the fore a point of potential contention and conflict as Cromwell snaps at the doctor telling him, “don’t ride me! I’ve had enough experience in space to know when I’ve had it!”

Anyway back to juvenile banter that makes one wonder if anyone in the whole universe would engage in such dialogue as Hoffman pays a visit to Dr. Faith Montaine and craps on about a lovely nymph living here, enchanted forests, farmer’s daughters and blah, blah, blah.

Well, in case we are too stupid to figure out that Faith is a “true scientist and not some adventurous hot rocketeer,” she is thoughtfully and stereotypically attired in the usual white coat and huge unflattering spectacles just to reinforce that fact for us. Of course, there’s a romantic involvement between this hot civilian scientist and Maj. Towers. God, it’s like being in the eighth grade at school instead of on board a space station crewed by supposedly professional adults!

Every now and again we are provided with breadcrumbs concerning this imagined future that apparently still retains 1950s style surplus ex-military analogue equipment replete with big dials, knobs and switches. Bathtubs and water have been replaced by instant cleaning processes. Smoking cigarettes has been banned but at least people can still drink alcohol. Synthetic food is used on space missions (stand by for lab grown meat in the next few years) and by the way – there was apparently a third World War! (a disturbingly real prospect the way things are moving these days geo-politically)

As Towers and Webber leave lunar orbit and approach the space station, their facial expressions almost suggest that they are both passing enormous solid stools apparently due to g-forces when maneuvering and accelerating their space craft. Judging by Towers and Webber’s arrival at the space station, it seems that in this future scenario there is no concept of space craft actually docking with a space station or of the crew gaining access via an airlock between space craft. Strangely enough, the lack of gravity seems to force astronauts to move in slow motion and neither they nor their unattended helmets are in the least bit inclined to float. Go figure.

Not long after their arrival, Dan mysteriously collapses and is taken to the infirmary by Dr. Hoffman. Gordon is later ambushed in his quarters by his forceful and insatiable biochemist girlfriend, Dr. Faith Montaine, and instead of jumping her bones after his long absence, he tries to disentangle himself from her clutches! Never mind – saved by a summons requiring Faith’s presence in the infirmary.

Hoffman has been unsuccessful in diagnosing Dan’s condition. He states that “pressure changes have never brought on symptoms like this” and it can’t be due to “space raptures due to too much weightlessness” as they cause hallucinations but not the high fever that Dan is running.

Upon hearing of Hoffman’s inability to diagnose Dan’s condition, Cromwell begins to get all metaphysical and with a weird faraway look in his eyes declares that “there are things out there we may never understand….or live with” Well, derr! It would be a bloody boring and pointless universe if we understood everything! That’s why we….explore! It is obvious though that Cromwell’s mind is beginning to unravel.

Faith then notices that an initially small welt on Dan’s leg has grown rapidly into a kind of large fungus twice (note, not ‘two times!’) the size it had been previously. She states that “it resembles a common bacteria” and could be of the kind of fungi that “are capable of killing living animal cells if they can enter the bloodstream.” Faith conjectures that the spores causing the fungus must have come from the Moon’s ice caves.

In order to contain the spread of the fungus and conduct further investigation, Hoffman and Faith agree to put Dan into isolation and not say anything to anybody about this until they are more certain about the fungus and any potential risk it could pose. But is this the right decision? Wouldn’t it be their responsibility to inform their commander and the rest of the crew as to any potential risk to their safety? Perhaps there’s the question of Cromwell’s apparent growing mental and emotional instability to consider. Just saying.

“He’s on the brink of space rapture”

Of course we have the mandatory swarm of meteors approaching the space station on a collision course. Interestingly enough, Cromwell designates the oncoming meteors as “the enemy” but is unable to give the order to take evasive action until coaxed to do so by the communications officer, Lt. Connie Engstrom.

Hoffman reports that Captain Webber is dead and that it was more than a virus fever that caused it. Cromwell is told that “ Webber was infected with some unknown kind of fungus” that’s “literally eating him up.” Cromwell tells Hoffman and Faith that they should have told him and under normal circumstances that seems to be reasonable. However, Cromwell in addition to being concerned that all their lives have been placed in jeopardy, is also worried that “a thing like this could put us in quarantine.”

Cromwell wants to see Webber’s body for himself but Hoffman warns him that “he’s a pretty terrible sight.” After briefly viewing the body through a small observation window, he bizarrely states, “now I am convinced there’s nothing unusual.” He then warns the others not to mention what has happened to anyone else and that he wont have the station “panic-stricken.”

When informed that it is his duty to report what has taken place to Gen. Knowland at Earth Control Center at once, Cromwell refuses to and insists that Webber’s death was the result of “pressure shock” despite how unlikely that would be.

The other crew-members present are gob-smacked that Cromwell doesn’t seem to “realize what could happen if that fungus gets started and starts spreading.” They conclude that he is “a very sick man” who’s “on the brink of space rapture” and should be grounded.

Back at Earth Control Centre, General Knowland and Captain Stevens are considering a coded message just received from the space station informing them of Webber’s death and stating the cause as being “death shock due to sudden pressure changes while entering parallel orbit with this space station.” This surprises the General as Webber had been in excellent condition. The message goes on to relate that Cromwell considers that Major Tower’s attitude since arriving at the space station is not in the best interest of his command nor the US Space Agency. Both General Knowland and Captain Stevens find the contents of this message to be very unusual indeed.

On the Space station a return message has been received in the form of a communique from General Noland who wishes to know what the……(cleaned up by Connie) if Comwell could clarify his last report.

Cromwell, however is off with the fairies once again as he contemplates the certainty of the existence of other worlds with beings like them as “the probability law states the conditions for life as we know it should exist on at least one hundred thousand planets here in our own galaxy.” As for locating the existence of such life, Cromwell despondently states that “we’ll never make it in my lifetime.” He goes on to add, “no, this is the end of…..” He never finishes that statement but we can guess what he was going to say which would be a window into his present state of mind.

When Connie leaves Cromwell, she is accosted by Towers and Hoffman who question her about the report. Connie, however remains loyal to Cromwell as both a crew member and on the basis of her feelings for the commander and tells them that he is in command of the station and she’ll “not be a part of any conspiracy against him.”

In the meantime, Faith has finished with her analysis of the fungus but finds herself trapped by it in the infirmary. Towers and Hoffman realise something is wrong when they unsuccessfully try to contact her on the station’s intercom. While Faith hops from side to side and to and fro in a lame portrayal of terror, Towers bursts into the infirmary sweaty armpits and all. He then proceeds to monkey-bar over to where Faith is and orders her to cling on to his back. As he monkey-bars himself and Faith back through the sluggish fungus, it appears that Towers is really walking them through it rather than making like Tarzan.

“ We must be ready to annihilate 

Space Station X-7”

With adrenaline pumping and testosterone surging, Cromwell stomps about issuing orders for spraying the station, sealing up the laboratory and contacting General Knowland in view of the supply ship that is supposed to arrive the nest day.

As Towers is informed that such transmissions can only be made with the proper authority if it is deemed to be an emergency, Cromwell appears and asks him, “since when are you giving orders aboard the station?”

The following facts that constitute such an emergency are presented to Cromwell:

  • “There’s a monstrous thing aboard the station.”
  • “We may all be contaminated.”
  • “We’ve got to stop all ships from coming here.”
  • “We’ve got to inform General Knowland and we’ll need his help.”
  • What’s growing in the laboratory is “spreading like Hellfire.”

Cromwell portrays Towers to the other crew members present as suffering from hallucinations due to space rapture and that “he can become dangerous.” Towers, Faith and Hoffman point out that considering Cromwell’s actions and state of mind, it is he who is the one who is placing them all in danger and therefore they must relieve him of his command. Cromwell cuts them short by ordering the three mutineers locked up.

After the three are taken away, a somewhat conflicted Connie enters and offers to take a look at the infirmary herself. However, she is prevented by Cromwell who wants her to send a report to the general on what has taken place and to have him ensure that the transport ship is launched at once with replacements for the detained personnel and as well as a report on how Towers attempted to take away Cromwell’s command at gunpoint, before he was overpowered. The accompanying music once again underscores the mental carnival playing out through Cromwell’s psyche.

The intended report amounts to an accusation of mutiny against Towers. Cromwell insists that Connie had witnessed the whole incident when in fact she hadn’t and that he can count on her loyalty and respect, qualities he expects from his crew.

From a rather obvious clue in what Crowell had told her, Connie decides to placate the clearly disturbed commander by telling him that he can trust her and that she’ll give the general a full report, as no doubt she now will.

Unknown to Cromwell, Connie he has palmed an audio recording of his last order. She transmits the recording to Knowland, who is aware that “Cromwell knows better than anyone that all weapons were ruled out of space as far back as 1970.”

Orders have been given to have Towers released while Connie’s report makes mention of the fact that the entire space station is being overrun by some kind of fungus and that all ships must be stopped from coming to the space station.

Meanwhile aboard the Space station, a search for Cromwell is being conducted but he is proving to be quite elusive. In addition, it seems that Hoffman is succumbing to the virus and he enlists Faith’s assistance to get him quietly and unobtrusively to the infirmary.

Major Towers has established contact with General Knowland where he forcefully states,

“Do not program any other flights to this station at this time. Second, we have a very dangerous alien growth….I’m sure it is from the lunar ice caves. According to Dr. Hoffman and Faith Montaine it is a type of fungi that grows at a tremendous rate. Under certain conditions it can be deadly and destroys living cells.”

Towers concludes by pointedly stating that the space station must be quarantined.

When a request is made for Dr Hoffman’s knowledge in the matter of the fungus, the good doctor’s absence is discovered. What’s more, when Knowland tries to reply to Space Station X-7, he gets no response. Suddenly there is a flurry of activity involving establishing contact with West Coast space bases, getting the Chiefs of Staff on Knowland’s private line, contacting Strategic Command Headquarters, going on alert – hell, just be seen to be doing a bunch of stuff.

The horrifying possibility is put to the general that the Space Station could go out of control and plunge toward Earth carrying that deadly fungus with it. It might burn up when it hits the atmosphere but “suppose one tiny fragment didn’t: that might be enough to start this thing off spreading it all around the world.”

If that is the case, there can be in Knowland’s strategy saturated militaristic mind only one option: “Gentlemen, we must be ready to annihilate Space Station X-7!”

Space Station X-7 Danger In Orbit

US Space Station Threat To World!

Killer Fungus Threatens Earth

Invasion From The Moon

Although Hoffman has contracted the fungal infection and is very ill, he is able to tell Faith and Towers that the fungus can be killed by cold. He reminds them how in the lab it rapidly grew when it reached the lighted area but that it isn’t the light the fungus thrives on, instead it’s the heat. This was confirmed when they placed Webber in the decompression chamber where there was no light. It is also pointed out that the fungus originated from “the frozen wall of the lunar ice caves; until it reached a warm environment, it was dormant.” Hoffman appeals to Towers and Faith to place him into the refrigeration chamber to lower his body temperature to maximum.

Another attempt to take control of Space station X-7 will need to be made but added to the danger posed by the fungus, Cromwell is once again on the rampage being fully afflicted by space rapture. Having escaped confinement to his quarters, Cromwell dons his cap and attempts to sabotage the station’s systems. With his carousel consciousness careening out of control, Cromwell is placing the station in grave danger with a sulphuric acid bomb and threatening to activate a gravitation control switch along with the station’s control jets which could bounce the Space Station right out of orbit.

Fortunately, Cromwell is subdued and presents a pathetic sight as he is being restrained while telling Connie to contact the general to inform him that the mutiny has been put down. All Connie can do is reassure Cromwell as if he were a child that he can trust her to tell the general everything. Cromwell is then taken away to be tied down but at least made comfortable seeing he is the commander and was not responsible for his actions.

Space Station X-7 Doomed

US Space Station A Growing Danger

With communications down, the possibility of the crew losing control of the Space Station and the X-7 possibly crashing to earth, Faith is beginning to lose…, along with her grip on reality. When Towers tries to reassure her that at least they are still alive, she intones in a dreamily spaced-out manner, “we’re not really alive anymore….. we’re nothing more than an event about to become history…… the bad dreams I have with my eyes closed are still there when I open them.”

In order to snap Faith out of her malaise and hysteria, Towers resorts to the cinematic tried and true method of slapping her in the face. It appears that physical assault is part of the repertoire of “the amazing powers of Major Towers.” At least we’re more enlightened in the 21st century in that we tolerate and approve guys on screen being kicked or kneed in the nuts as well as being slapped in the face if they do or say anything untoward.

With Faith restored to her senses, it is discovered that there is a food shortage aboard the station. Faith told the others that they had enough food to last another week but that was a lie as she didn’t want to worry them. All of the synthetics are contaminated. Well, now everyone is worried!

The last hope of saving X-7 appears to be to lower its interior temperature to below zero degrees while the crew are protected by their survival suits. The plan proves to be successful as the fungus inside X-7 dies off. However, it is now growing on the outside of the space station and spreading! Bur why?

Meanwhile, a workaround to the communications problem has been put into effect involving shutting down the station’s reactor which will be registered by terrestrial radar tracking stations in the form of Morse code consisting of a signal created by breaking the circuits on the nuclear generator thereby producing a simple static signal.

The received message outlines the situation so far:

  • The fungus is destroyed by freezing temperature.
  • The interior of the space station is now below zero.
  • The fungus cannot be similarly destroyed on the station’s exterior.
  • The food supply is exhausted.
  • Oxygen supply is low.
  • Help is needed.

Back on earth, Knowland appears to be bound to “a decision of the heads of states around the world” whereby if “there’s any sign of Space Station X-7 falling out of orbit, they’ll have to be destroyed.” However, one of Knowland’s officers suggests that the fungal growth on the station’s exterior may be due to the “high temperatures generated by the unshielded blazing sun” beating down on X-7. This gives Knowland the idea of creating a screen in the form of “a cloud of sub-zero particles” launched in a rocket that will explode creating a huge cloud of ice crystals that will engulfthe  Space Station as it passes through.

The plan works as the fungus on the exterior of X-7 is killed. (Who would have thought that fungus can scream as it dies off in the void of space?) While the crew aboard the station await the arrival of a relief ship in the next three hours, Knowland tells them “Don’t lose your faith” (Get it? Faith! Oh God!) With the end of their travails, Faith and Towers gaze at each other and signal with a saccharin smile that all is now and will be well. Cue space station spinning optimistically away into a shiny hopeful future.

Points Of Interest

Mutiny in Outer Space was filmed in six days at Producers Studio in Hollywood, on a budget of approximately $90,000. Space Station X and Invasion from the Moon were the film’s working titles. Although it was filmed in the US, the film is an Italian-American co-production. In the US, Mutiny in Outer Space was theatrically released as the second film of a double feature with The Human Duplicators, another such co-production.

Although the film is obviously quite cheaply made, I found that I could best appreciate it by listening to its audio content only. Due to my steadily deteriorating eye-sight, I often listen to audio only and audio-described versions of films and let my imagination flll in the blanks in terms of visual cues based on what I hear. It was in this manner that I recently revisited Mutiny in Outer Space. The dialogue reflected the film’s quite zippy pace and it was easy to imagine everything that was taking place. It was almost a disappointment when I viewed the film as per normal again. Mutiny in Outer Space would work very well as a dramatized radio play.

Speaking of the film’s visual aspects, it has the feel of being a throw-back to the science fiction films of the previous decade. However, some of the ideas presented are really quite interesting, while others are fairly naive and embarrassing even for the time. Among these are:

In relation to the scene in which the old communications satellite is on a collision course with Space Station X-7, we are reminded of the presence of space junk being an ever growing hazard to satellites and space craft in low orbit in our own time!. It seems that as we humans continue to spread throughout and infest the rest of the cosmos, our refuse will similarly follow in our wake.

Distribution of space debris around Earth

Ice Caves on the moon: Recently we have detected the presence of water ice on the polar regions of the moon and within craters that are permanently in shadow. This also presents us with the possibility of obtaining both water and fuel for future lunar bases and missions to other planets.

Probe Ship Number Five and its “electronic skipper:” So much of space travel in our own era in terms of guidance, navigation, rendezvous and docking procedures is becoming more and more routine and automated. One hopes that this over-reliance on technology and artificial intelligence doesn’t allow complacency to take over thereby resulting in tragic consequences.

The fungus and its survival in outer space: The Apollo 12 mission to the moon brought back to earth a camera from a Surveyor craft that was accidentally contaminated prior to launch with a common type of bacterium, Streptococcus mitis. The bacteria had apparently survived dormant in the harsh lunar environment for two and a half years. It begs the question as to what else could survive the extreme conditions of outer space and what kind of potential threat would be posed to life on earth? Have previous pandemics been the result of micro-organisms entering the earth from outer space? Or perhaps have microbes migrated to our planet via asteroids and comets and kick-started the process of life here as part of a process called panspermia? We already know of the existence of extremophiles or microbes that can survive in extreme conditions on earth. Is it possible that global warming and the resulting melting of the permafrost could release long dormant pathogens that wind up causing diseases against which we may have little defence?

Finally, there is the question of the “human element” that General Knowland was so worried about in relation to our presence in outer space. No doubt great thought and effort has gone into the emotional and psychological suitability and compatibility of those who are and will be selected for space missions. But will tis continue to be the case as we expand further into space and increase our presence there whether it be for exploration, recreation, to take up residence and undertake employment on orbital space stations and in colonies on the surfaces of other planets? Who is to say what kind of toll an environment for which evolution has not adequately equipped us may have on our physiological and psychological state. If nor “space raptures,” then what else? Decalcification, muscular atrophy, lack of oxygen, radiation, psychological deterioration on a par with what was experienced during Covid lockdowns and isolation….. If we’re not careful there are so many ways that space will wind up killing us.


Thank you to the plus visitors so far to this blog. I hope you found something of interest here or at least went away with an greater appreciation of and interest in classic vintage science fiction movies. Perhaps some fond memories have been triggered about such films you saw many years ago. Well, to help you along with this I’d like to offer you my free eBook, The Big Fat Book of Sci-Fi Films of the 1950s. But please keep coming back here as classic sci-fi films will be added to this blog. Please also spread the word! 


©Chris Christopoulos 2024

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